Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 4

Facebook is currently down, and has been down all morning, which I approve of in principle but it makes some candidates harder to research. I feel like I can probably do this one, though:

Phillipe Cunningham (DFL-endorsed; incumbent)
LaTrisha Vetaw (DFL)
Leslie Davis (We the People)

tl;dr vote for Phillipe.

This is one of those really straightforward, “do you want the progressive or the conservative” sort of races. Or, I guess, since there are three candidates on the ballot, “do you want the progressive, the conservative, or whackjob?”

Leslie Davis has a trademarked website where he rails about the evils of fluoride, masks, and chemtrails. More locally, he’s opposed to the public safety charter amendment and would like more speed bumps. He’s furious about the current plan for the Upper Harbor Terminal, I think mainly because he thinks he should have been in charge of the redevelopment. Anyway, if you’re bored and want to read wacky conspiracy theories, his website should keep you occupied for a while.

LaTrisha Vetaw has been a Park Board At-Large rep for four years; she ran four years ago as a Green. I think there’s a common perception that the Green Party is to the left of the Democrats, but in Minneapolis city races, that’s frequently not true. This year she’s running as the more-conservative Democrat: she opposes the Public Safety charter amendment and the Rent Control charter amendment, and supports the Strong Mayor charter amendment. Back in April, she did a Zoom Q&A event where she said a lot of stuff that was clearly intended to be reassuring to landlords and was maybe not intended for wider distribution. She is endorsed by Tom Hoch and Operation Safety Now, and she’s cozy with (not sure if she’s officially endorsed by) Don Samuels and Victor Martinez. (Edit: apparently she’s keeping her personal distance from Victor Martinez, they’re just popular with the same people.) I’ll note she doesn’t have either Tom or OSN on her site, which sticks to more palatable organizations like trade unions and WomenWinning. But overall: LaTrisha is not hiding who she is, or what she believes, in this campaign. She’s the more conservative candidate! That might be what you’re looking for, and you should have an easy time finding it.

Phillipe Cunningham is the incumbent, after narrowly beating Barb Johnson, who held a seat that had previously been held by her mother (and before that, another family member — her aunt, maybe?) Phillipe is endorsed by the DFL and also by Take Action MN, the Sierra Club, Ilhan Omar, and a large collection of progressive organizations and politicians.

Something it’s hard to tell from outside the district is how good someone is at constituent service (e.g., when you call your City Council rep to complain that the stop sign at the end of your block got knocked down, or that no one’s shoveling snow outside that business with the “opening soon” sign, etc.) But Phillipe highlights his constituent service accomplishments and FWIW, when I’ve looked up people yelling at him on Twitter, they seem to mostly be people infuriated by his stance on the public safety charter amendment, not people complaining that he never got back to them about a missing stop sign. His accomplishments include a wage theft ordinance and protections for freelance workers, an ordinance that requires landlords to pay relocation expenses of tenants if they lose their license out of negligence, and ordinances to offer tax breaks to landlords who keep rent low, and to help offset the costs of emergency repairs.

He also talks on his site about building relationships with youth in his district by volunteering at the high school:

I think Phillipe is doing a good job.

I will note: in contrast to my feelings about some of the conservative candidates in ward races, I quite like LaTrisha. I sat through several hours of Park Board meetings, trying to understand how various controversies had gone down at the time, and LaTrisha was smart, sharp, and impatient with bullshit, all qualities I value. But Phillipe’s politics are much closer to mine; I would absolutely vote to re-elect Phillipe.


Did you know that I had a book released this April? Chaos on CatNet is a sequel to Catfishing on CatNet and takes place in a future Minneapolis. Signed copies are usually available from Dreamhaven and from the current mail-order-only incarnation of Uncle Hugo’s. Books make great holiday gifts, but should be ordered early this year — Tubby & Coo’s bookstore explains why.

I do not have a Patreon or Ko-Fi, but you can make a donation to encourage my work! I get a lot of satisfaction watching fundraisers I highlight getting funded. My readers have now bought a refrigerator for the school nurse at Olson Middle School, outfitted 8th grade Algebra students at Olson Middle School with binders to stay organized, bought a 3-D printer for students at Humboldt high school in St. Paul, equipped a classroom at Whittier with an air purifier, and bought a pug mill (a clay mixer that allows you to reuse dried-out clay) for art students at Andersen United. Here are some other worthwhile fundraisers for high-poverty Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools:

The North High School librarian would like copies of We Are Not From Here for students to read in 9th grade English class.

A teacher at Green Central Elementary would like a book/curriculum set that covers “themes such as racism, cultural identity, homelessness, immigration, gender and sexuality, and social activism.” (Your conservative aunt on Facebook who scaremongers about “critical race theory” would keel over in horror at this one.)

A first-year teacher at Bryn Mawr would like a variety of classroom supplies, including individual dry-erase boards, a big easel, a classroom rug, a selection of books, and some educational games.

Elementary teachers at Lucy Laney, Jefferson, and two at Folwell, would like help providing a mid-morning snack to their students.

Two science teachers at Washington Technology high school in St. Paul would like learning materials for their chemistry classes: glassware and microscopes, and equipment that will allow students to “see how adding nanoparticles to a conductive solution affects voltage.”

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